Have you ever run into a room only to forget what you were looking for? Walked into a store for milk—and left with no milk? If you are feeling out of focus lately, join the club.
In our fast-paced, modern world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and get off task. Besides slowing down and cutting back on distractions like your phone, there are simple ways you can take charge and improve your focus, mental health, and memory function. Here are some tips, straight from the experts.
Healthy Fats and Superfoods
Dr. Bonnie Brock, a Registered Dietitian, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, and owner of A New Leaf Natural Medicine in Evanston and Glenview, IL, recommends upping superfoods and cutting down on inflammatory foods.
Her list of foods to incorporate includes:
- Cold water/oily fish for omega-3 fatty acids
- Fermented foods for beneficial probiotics
- Dark, leafy green vegetables for brain-boosting vitamin and minerals
- Dark red and purple berries for powerful anthocyanin
- Ginger and turmeric root for anti-inflammatory properties
- Prebiotic-rich onion, sunchoke, asparagus, jicama, and dandelion greens to feed your existing beneficial microbiota
Foods to reduce or avoid:
- Inflammatory processed meats (lunch meat, bacon)
- Sweets and refined carbohydrates (cookies, cakes, soda)
- Artificial sweeteners
Vitamins, Herbs and Supplements
Livia Ly, a registered and licensed dietitian and nutritionist and founder of Nutrily, suggests an array of supplements to aid memory and focus:
- Vitamin D: Plays a fundamental role in brain health and a deficiency may impair cognitive abilities. The sun is irreplaceable when it comes to the body’s ability to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D.
- Vitamin C and Vitamin E: These nutrients are powerful antioxidants, and Vitamin C is the brain’s most prevalent one.
- B Vitamins: B12 and B6 play specific roles in the synthesis of DNA or neurotransmitters. B1, B2, B3, B5, and B7 promote adequate energy production.
- Sage: Has a reputation for improving memory and concentration.
- Rosemary: Protects the brain from neurodegeneration.
- Zinc: Important for proper neurotransmitter function (organic beef, sesame seeds).
- Calcium: Important for brain signaling (organic tofu, sesame seeds).
- Iron: Involved in forming neurotransmitters and certain brain cells, as well as carrying oxygen (eat beef liver or organic soybeans).
- Magnesium: Required for more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body, many being important for normal brain function (unsalted pumpkin seeds, organic spinach).
We all know exercise is good for your physical health, but did you know it is great for your mental health, too? “Exercise is one of the most well-studied tools to help boost focus and memory,” says Dr. Kelly A. Simms, ND, who runs an integrative and functional health practice in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. “According to research, physical activity can help with brain function and protect against loss of brain function due to aging,” she adds.
In order to make a positive impact on your brain function, exercise needs to be “planned, structured, and repetitive.” Consider picking up a routine of a daily walk, run, or swim — or even weightlifting — in order to see the benefits.
Proper hydration is the key to many things, including brain function. “Dehydration causes headaches, confusion, or false hunger,” says Dr. Ly. She recommends drinking plenty of liquids — about 17 ounces a day, depending on your body weight — including filtered water, natural coconut water, homemade broths and soups, unsweetened vegetable juices or smoothies, and non-caffeinated teas.
Sleep and Meditation
Yes, you may need to shut down in order to recharge. Consistent sleep, at least seven to eight hours a night, is what you should aim for.
Dr. Simms recommends the following tips for restful sleep:
- Stop screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Keep your phone out of your bedroom for the night or in airplane mode if it is by your bedside.
- Keep your home cool — around 68 degrees.
- Keep your lights dim after 8 p.m. Darkness helps your body make more melatonin, which can lead to better sleep quality when you finally do hit the hay.
- Speaking of melatonin, if you need sleep support, a small dose of 0.5mg 30 minutes before bed can help with your sleep and not cause any grogginess associated with a higher dose melatonin supplement.
- Drink herbal tea an hour before bedtime. Teas take time to sip, which is calming, and herbal blends like chamomile can help calm your mind.
- 10 minutes before bed, meditate.
Training your brain with puzzles and games can keep it in top shape, Dr. Brock recommends. “Do puzzles, mind games, and memory tests — anything that makes you think,” she says. This also includes going through old photos, which is especially helpful for the older population. “Go through old pictures with someone and tell each other the story of the day the picture was taken — where were you, what was the event, who were you with, how did you feel, what was the weather questions, for example,” Dr. Brock added.
Macaire Douglas lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, more than 3,600 newborns have been safely surrendered and adopted into loving homes.